Monday, April 18, 2011


5.7 British male aged 33 dark brown hair, normally has stubble and is quite hairy. quietly spoken is on holiday in tokyo staying with friends

I watch Godfather 2 at ten in the morning in Saitamashintoshin. It`s all old people in the cinema. It was not my idea to come here. My friends did not come.
After in the sun I sit in the area. It`s a horrible concrete fun area surrounded by highways. People walk quietly doing what they always do. Nothing happens here.
A friend calls me on the train back to Tokyo. It`s bad to answer your phone on Japanese trains but I do. He wants to know where the key is to the front door.
I have been staying at his house. He is a friend from when I lived in Tokyo two years before. He and his housemates have let me stay after I had to leave my lover`s house for a month. She is a painter.. Now she has her first big show at the end of the month I had to get out of her tiny apartment, rammed as it already is with stacks of paintings and art books. I don`t know if I`ll stay or she`ll want me to stay. While she is painting she`s lost to me so I lay in wait for the month to end in the homes of my friends.


A day later I will be in Mos Burger with her and she`ll tell me a Twitter friend knows someone whose dad works at the exploded oil works in Chiba. She will tell me if it rains on you you`ll get chemical burns and I will shrug my shoulders and say nothing. I get a call from my friend Colin, now a salary man in Tokyo. He says that when they had been dispelled from work he had gone heavy drinking, and finally made it home with the emergency supplies of a big bottle of tea and a Cadbury's Twirl he'd been amazed to find.
A couple of hours later I am with some other foreign pals, and when one of them gets the same mail about the Chiba chemical plant and wants to go home, and I will look at the afternoon sun and say there is no wind nor rain cloud, and see my friend cannot hear me, the work of Chinese whisperers will be well done.

Ten minutes after my friend calls, the train has an emergency stop. I think someone has jumped under the train. Then the train moves and outside moves too. It`s a really big one. People are quiet on the train but strangers start to talk to each other in hushed voices but not to me. The train creaks and rocks and does not rattle like a house. When it ends an announcement is said but I don`t know what. A constant stream of people start walking through the train right to left in front of me and no-one talks much. Some people stay sitting and I do too. There are no foreign faces to talk to because we are out of the city. When the walkers have all gone I ask the people left what`s going on. An old salary man talks to me in too difficult Japanese. A middle-aged man walking through had sat with us, and he makes an effort for me. They are both smilers. A girl with oriental face says she is not Japanese either. Her Japanese is much better than mine. A train official walking through the train hurriedly tells us there won`t be a train for a few more hours. There won`t be any more trains today. The few of us left sitting get up to leave the train and an old woman nearby who had been listening says in English Oh my goodness, what`s happening to me? It`s to no-one in particular and it pisses me off.

We leave the train, the front of which had reached a station. The smiling middle-aged business man talks to the Chinese girl in Japanese. I stay near them and they try to speak some English and I try Japanese. At the gates a large screen is showing newsreels. Waves violent and high are swamping close to the top of street lamps in what must be a coastal area. I have no idea where it is. As the crowd watches another big quake hits. Signs hanging from the ceiling swing and pull at the fittings. The middle-aged man is underneath one looking up at it. I pull on the sleeve of his leather blazer to move him and without words we decide to leave the building. An ancient woman is at the top of a long flight of stairs. The man stops to talk to her when everyone else is ignoring her.

Outside a taxi line is already long. Clusters of confused folks mill around without direction. Mobile phones do not work. At the police box the man asks police for bus timetables, which he seems completely unable to fathom, so he does introductions and produces his name card. He is a tea salesman. The Chinese girl is a student. Her electronic dictionary has a photobooth photo of her and a male child.

They tell me there are no buses. I try to say that it could be a good idea to get many buses into Tokyo, one step at a time. They say there are no buses. They start going from one bus stop to another and I follow. He seems to be looking for a bus to get the girl home and every driver tells them that there are none. After fifteen minutes more of this I ask her how far is her home by train and she says it is one stop more, so I tell her that I will walk her the one stop because I have decided I am going to walk all the way back home to Tokyo. She says she doesn`t like walking, so I laugh, tell her I am walking her, and start walking. They follow me.


In two days I will be in Yoyogi park in the afternoon Tokyo sun. Of the dozen foreigners in our group several are carrying their passports, a few have emergency backpacks, and nearly all will have left Tokyo before a week has passed, some for good. I will join a group under a tree and use my own shoes to try and dislodge a stranger`s shoe from a branch and I will realise how unfit my stiff body is from the kicking it took walking 30km two days before.

The sun begins to fade into late afternoon and a chill wind picks up as we walk. Fifteen minutes of slow walking and the Chinese girl is delivered to the next station. Helpless, she is familiar with the act, and chose the tea salesman with a purpose maybe she does not know herself. I tell her I`ll buy her a coffee and donut but she says her goodbyes. When she leaves the tea man turns to me and says She is married, she has a ring.

The donut shop, like everywhere around the stations, is full of the stranded, but we do find somewhere else to eat.
He has beef on rice and I have tonkatsu on rice. A new tremor comes. Walking we`d felt none. It is a comfortable gyration. One woman goes out then comes back in. Most do nothing. The place is full and the salesman talks in good humour to a table of school girls adjacent. I see a white man for the first time today, alone and with a beer, but we don`t talk because our gang was already made


In three days a violent jolt will wake me in the night. It is the first quake that annoys me. My friend and his fiance will be up and walking around the house. Sliding doors to the tatami room, where another visiting pal is sleeping, will open, and she in her pyjamas will ask what time it is before going back to bed without another word. When I wake again she will be gone back to Osaka, and I`ll be under an extra duvet, and I`ll spend the day drinking coffee in and out of the house, on computers, telling people to stop worrying about me, while doing my best to figure out if the Japanese nuclear industry is full of liars or not. All I will want is to go to my lover`s room, and fulfil a romance about leaving Tokyo and starting over together in a far away place, but I`ll let her paint alone through the aftershocks.

The tea salesman insists to walk with me to the next station. His bag is very heavy, I suddenly notice, but he won`t let me carry it.

He talks to another salary man who is towing a small case on wheels. It is dark now. The other man`s walking becomes out of sync and he drifts away from us. He is not in our gang.
I take the salesman to a hotel and rest on the chairs as he talks to the staff. The staff suggest another hotel to him but his phone does not work and he looks nonplussed so I tell him he should use the payphone. But first he sits with me in the front window of the hotel and we realise how tired we`ve already become as we watch parties go to the desk to get turned away one after another.
After his call to confirm his room at the other hotel I take him to the bar of this full hotel. A small child is here in a Pokemon tracksuit. I think this is strange. I am becoming tired. He wears a soft silver pointed hat I realise days later is a quake hat for kids. The bar is empty otherwise and we order a bottle of Asahi Super Dry. Finally he sends email to his wife after he tells me he has two twin daughters who are thirteen. He is ten years older than me and I tell him I am jealous.
On the street he goes to walk back to the previous station where he will be sleeping this night and we part ways.


In four days I will be in her room after I go there unannounced to check on her. I will arrive wearing my deer hunter outfit I`ve adopted for the crisis after a friend gives me a hunting jacket. Her painting is not influenced by the quake she will tell me. It is good painting. I will wonder whether she is using it to run away or if it makes no difference. Soon after I arrive we will be having sex and a big aftershock hits while she is on top of me and I will make her put on her military bikers helmet.

It has become very cold and the walking helps. I follow the tracks from one stop to the next but the road no longer runs parallel. The old phone I have has no internet, which has been working for those who can`t make calls, so I have been following a salary man who is using his iphone. He disappears and I take a wrong turn onto a dark winding road that comes out into an open space. A railway bridge massive stretches away over a wide river. Occasional taxis already hired come along the winding road and away down the river. From some kind of outpost at the river I see the nearest road crossing looks far away.

Going to a high point on the bank, I climb through a fence and then up onto the bridge through inadequate barb wire.
As I start to walk along the bridge the river surges below, quake water swashing up the banks. At the far end of the bridge a radio below talks from the blue tarp of the shoreline hovels of the homeless. They stand hand on hips watching the water a few feet from their doors. They look up at the approaching tap of my boots on the metal bridge.
There is no place down on the other side, barbed wire is better placed at the best spot. I walk on over roads and people, too high to jump down to, and trying to disguise boots noisy on railway gravel and metal plating.
The tracks merge with a second line and with me in the middle. A brightly lit but abandoned station is beyond, the exits of which will now be locked. I go back and climb a fence to jump over onto a pole with footholds that`s behind some buildings. I wait for a quiet moment then jump down from a wall where a lone walker double takes but keeps on walking.
The next town is larger, the line for taxis longer. A ridiculous map next to the police box abandoning North and South for top and bottom confuses me. Saitama to the north is a memory from two years ago and I`d never been there before. Am I walking south or north? I remember the sun from before and realise I`m walking south.
I stop in a coffee shop and order an ice tea when two minutes later I`ve cooled off and want a hot drink. A girl has a terrifying alarm on her phone. Her and a pal eagerly hover at the window to watch the street. Inside is starting to rattle. I pay and leave.
I walk past an area cordoned off over which is a walkway with a man on top of it staring down into a massive crack.
Out of town the road splits from the railway again. The number of people walking the other way out of Tokyo has become a steady stream to push against.
A crossroads is reached. Never seen here – some men run across the road to beat the traffic. They are running because the man in front is running. The first man vaults a hard to see low chain fence. The second man does not see it and slams down hard. The running men run off.
I help up the man telling him in Japanese to go slowly. After, I wonder whether I had said to talk more slowly.
I stand at the crossroads for minutes before I see a sign for Koenji and decide to abandon the now unseen railway and to follow the highway that will get me closer to Higashi-Koenji.


In five days my friends will not go to bed while they pack for the next morning`s emergency exit. I will stay up with them and see my friend get more drunk and then, thinking they may never return to Tokyo as it falls to chaos, he will show me his most valuable books in case I need to sell them. They will leave me at four in the morning for the other side of Japan. I will reassure them that I am holding on a day or so more so I can convince my lover to leave too - but I won`t know if it`s really true or not. At this moment I will wonder if this were Nazi Germany whether they would be the Jews who read the signs and had the resources to leave early. They will take the cat and I will be alone in the big house and I will wonder for the first time what ghosts may be there.

I walk on a long time, past a bus, and it passes me again, and this happens several times more. A man in a facemask crushed on the bus makes eye contact with me every time I pass. A sign says Koenji 8km. I walk on perhaps for five kilometers and then I see a sign that says Koenji 5km. Disheartened I come upon an open restaurant with the same name as me and I go inside. Tired staff, unreplaced from earlier shifts are frantic. I order a beer which comes cold and fast and a dinner which comes slow and cold from a manager in a crumpled shirt. When the room starts moving no-one goes outside. After I eat I go for a piss and try to be quick because I don`t want this to be the place I`ll be trapped and dying in, though I do suppose I could undo the plumbing and have water.

I leave and walk on, my brain thinking it is a soldier when my body hasn`t had the training.


In six days she will come over to the big empty house and we`ll watch the original The Crazies until we fall asleep.

Calls have reached my phone but I missed them all walking. She has called twice and I`ll miss a third call from her. I try calling back but it always fails and then finally it connects and tells me I have no credit. I walk on and reach familiar streets. It is seven and a half hours since the big quake. The main road under which passes the Metro is host of a throng of dark suits moving in one direction. Volunteers with loud speakers and hard hats shout directions to the nearby school opened up as a resting spot and I wonder if there`ll be free food in there. I cross over the road and into back streets. Fed-up or elated – I don`t know the reason – I run the last few streets to her building. The local park every night home to a gang of adolescents is empty.

At her room I open the door and she says my name but does not hold me. She has a visitor who at first is her ex but then changes into her brother. It is our first meeting. Her crappy old box in the corner on loop shows what looks like the end of days. She tells me she had found my sister`s entry for me on Google Person Finder and I enjoy the description of me.
We watch the TV for hours after her brother is gone. The chirpy quake warning preludes every new tremor. There are many. She says she won`t sleep tonight. After I put the TV sound off and hold her she sleeps soon and through every tremor until morning comes.


In seven days she will be reading about atomic power behind me on another computer while I cancel my website that`s been running since 2003 and we both listen to Black Sabbath. Her exhibition has been cancelled. We won`t talk much. A short while before, she will have talked to her brother on the phone, told him all my foreign friends have left Tokyo, and ask him if they should go to their hometown. I will have pushed her with talk of another life for us away from Tokyo and she nervous will have said You can say anything.

In a restaurant I will look out of the window and we won`t talk much. I will realise we are two people in a close space and not two people closer together.

What worse thing for a man than to realise he is not needed in a time of crisis? 

I have received an email that he was on adventures out of the city when the earthquake struck. hes very tired but okay